BLACK CANDLES a.k.a. The Sexual Rites of the Devil (1980) Reviewed by Bryan “SHU-IZMZ” Schuessler
Director Jose Ramon Larraz really is great at encapsulating the essence of steamy exploitation films with a tinge of horror and unintentional campy dialogue and humor…or at least that is how I see it. Black Candles is one of those films that reminded me of Coppola’s Rosemary’s Baby, due to the references it possessed in regards to the coven of Satanists, if that is even what they were in Black Candles. This story begins with a man named Drew in bed with a very sultry vixen who is already naked and ready to go. This occurs in just under a minute. If there is a naked chick with a guy and they have sex in the film in the first minute and that film is not a hardcore porno, then I am pretty sure that I will be digging this movie (probably more so than Larraz did since he allegedly disowned this film following its release).
Before the scene gets too hot and heavy, the camera cuts to a scene of a woman holding what appears to be a Voodoo doll of some sorts, stabbing it with a long metal needle right in the torso. Suddenly, the man (Drew) having sex dies. Sex, nudity, and a murder all within the first few minutes. As the film progresses, it just gets better. In case you didn’t know, Jose Ramon Larraz also is responsible for the ultra-sexy and wonderful cult film Vampyres, starring the dynamic-duo of vixens Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska. I had forgotten that Lamaz had directed that film as well, one that I thoroughly enjoyed and raced out to buy it as soon as I could.
With that being said, I knew I was in for a fun ride with Black Candles. The setting takes place in England and after Drew’s untimely death, his sister Carol (Vanessa Hidalgon as Vanessa Ashley) sets out with her boyfriend Robert (Mauro Ribera as Martin Ren) to visits Drew’s wife Fiona (Helge Line) and find out just what exactly happened, or so I thought. The rest of the film progresses even farther into overtly sexual scenes that are bordering on being an adult film but show with so much care and style that one could not help but admire the skill involved in the cinematography. I really think that Juan Marine really could have made a great career making those soft-core Playboy dvds or at least taking a role in refining the voyeuristic peeping shot. Cinematographer Marine really made every scene of sexuality in this film even sexier than it was, especially the scene with the woman and the Billy Goat. Yes, there is a woman screwing a Billy Goat in this film! I believe this to be the first time I have ever seen bestiality on film (ed. note: liar).
Another saving grace to this film was the extremely edgy and vulgar dialogue that was given with unabashed filthiness. I loved it! In one scene, Georgiana is working on what seems to be “milking” the Billy Goat to which Carol’s boyfriend Robert comments to her,
Robert: “You better stop that or you’ll get him (the goat) too excited.“
Georgiana: “Exactly what I want to do!… I’m sure you’ve never seen a Billy Goat mounting a woman and cumming inside her.”
One will be able to say that Georgiana’s comment will be something that you will be able to say you have witnessed on your screen if you do choose to watch this film. Now, that probably is not a good thing but this is a movie about evil and black magic. In addition to the references to the devil, bestiality, satanic orgies, and covens, there are evil concoctions of herbal tea drinks getting passed around, jokes about growing Marijuana instead of herbs that are poisonous and capable of killing someone, and more sex-orgies with women possessing thick bush, lovely breasts, incredible asses, and steamy scenes of sex. Oh, and speaking of asses, one of the asses gets a sword shoved up it. I shall let that last thought simmer in your brain.
In a nutshell, this film really did it for me and was extremely enjoyable to watch, even though it did not have a drop of blood in it or any gore. It just goes to show you that a film that explores the boundaries of sex, orgies, bestiality, and perversions can win me over without having violence, blood, gore, or brutality.
If the version that I watched was the uncut Italian one, it was rated X for simulated sex acts and based on the scenes I watched (few lesbian scenes of oral sex that show everything but the tongue penetrating any part of the glorious forest of thick bush (but viewers get the idea!), as well as a scene that alluded to a woman giving a man a blow job during one of the many sexual confrontations throughout the film. Like I said, Larraz is not shy with giving viewers gratuitous sex of fantastic proportions.
In addition to having made this film and Vampyres (1974), Larraz directed Whirlpool a.k.a. Perversion Flash (1970), Edge of the Axe (1988), Symptoms a.k.a. The Blood Virgin (1974), and The Coming of Sin (1978). I have now added another director to the growing list of directors whose films I want to see all of. If one would like to read up more on director Jose Ramon Larraz, or some of the sultry vixens that have appeared in his films (Line, Anulka), check out the book Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984 (1994) by Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs, as there is a chapter dedicated to Larraz in it.
If sex, sex, and more sex is your thing, then Black Candles is a film you may very well enjoy. Throw in the mix some great scenes of cinematography, again in regards to the steamy sex scenes, one will be even more titillated and thrilled, as well as topping the whole exploitative opus with some very beautiful women and the ever so glorious shots of bush. I really look forward to viewing the rest of the Jose Ramon Larraz catalog so keep reading as there will be more reviews to come critiquing his work.